March 9: Christus Victor

by The Rev. Posey Krakowsky
Christus Victor

“Christus Victor.” Left panel of an ivory diptych, late 8th century. Musées Royaux d’Art et d’Histoire, Brussels.
Photo: Genevra Kornbluth

“A plan for the fullness of time.” This is one of my favorite parts of today’s passage in Ephesians, because it points to a different soteriologyso·te·ri·ol·o·gy (sō-tîr′ē-ŏlə-jē)
n. The branch of theology dealing with the nature and means of salvation. [Greek sōtērion, deliverance (from sōtēr, savior, from saos, sōs, safe) + -LOGY.]
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
than we usually hear from the dominant Christian voices in the public square right now. Too often the only idea of salvation that has been emphasized for the past millenium is that of substitutionary atonement: Jesus died for us as a sacrificial substitute for our evil deeds. In its worst expressions, substitutionary salvation posits an angry God figure, who is also a divine child abuser, willing to sacrifice a beloved child.

Our passage today offers us a different idea of salvation from the patristic period: Christus Victor — a savior who gathers up all things in heaven and on earth. Ephesians places God’s saving work in the context of the cosmos — where the battle that is taking place is not on the merely human level, but of spiritual powers and forces that are active in the universe as a whole, bringing discord and strife to all that is. Christ rescues us by defeating sin, evil, and death itself. We speak of this in the Apostles’ Creed when we say “He descended into hell.” Christ’s victory reveals to us a new way of being in the universe — pointing to the cessation, here and now, of any estrangement between God and creation.


  • Psalm 107:1-3,17-22
  • Daniel 12:5-13
  • Ephesians 1:7-14